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14th century

The economic crisis of the 14th century

The medieval eco­nomic revolution of the 12th and 13th cen­turies led to a boom in activity in Europe, and espe­cially in France. But this was cut short abruptly at the start of the 14th century due to a number of events: climate change, crises in agri­cul­tural pro­duction (in par­ticular the great famine of 1314-​​1317), the dev­ast­ation caused by the start of the Hundred Years' War between France and England in 1337, the various calam­ities suffered by the Byz­antine Empire, epi­demics (the Black Death from 1347 to 1351, fol­lowed by repeated out­breaks up until 1370).

As a result of these epi­demics in par­ticular, the pop­u­lation in some regions of Europe was more than halved. France's pop­u­lation only returned to its 1320 level in around 1600.

Against this backdrop, goods prices fell sharply, and there were numerous state defaults throughout Europe, as well as bank­ruptcies of private banks: in 1345, for example, Edward III of England defaulted on his debt, while the Florentine banks Bardi and Perruzi both went bankrupt. The epi­demics also prompted a rise in wages as the supply of labour became increas­ingly scarce.

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